The Scoop on 18 Seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and More!

Five-time Emmy nominee starring in 18 seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” Chandra Wilson sat down with The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk in the latest episode of “On The Edge,” a new podcast spotlighting stories of opportunity, discovery, and courage. In the newest episode, Wilson talks about some of her most medically challenging moments as Dr. Miranda Bailey, including watching a baby get open-heart surgery while shadowing a surgeon for her ‘Grey’s’ role, her experience growing up in the South in the 1970s and being called racial slurs as a child, and the difficulty of addressing the stigmas surrounding obesity. “On The Edge” is a capsule podcast series that is part of the “At Home With The Creative Coalition” podcast.

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Listen to additional episodes of “On The Edge” right now:
Episode 1 featuring Emmy Award-nominated actor Kelly Jenrette
Episode 2 featuring actor Shanola Hampton
Episode 3 featuring Emmy Award-nominated actor Yvette Nicole Brown
Episode 4 featuring showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett
Episode 5 featuring SAG Award-winning actor Dean Norris

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Highlights from “On The Edge” featuring Chandra Wilson –

On her audition for “Grey’s Anatomy” and not recognizing Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers:
“The role was for a short, white, blonde female…rigid…kind of like your mom… And that was enough to get me to L.A. for my studio and network auditions. I went into the studio audition and met with the director. We had, like, a private session. And I believe at the other end of the conference table was Betsy Beers and Shonda Rhimes, who I had no clue who they were. And they didn’t really introduce themselves, like ‘We’re the producers,’ they were, like, other people in the room. So I’m working with the director and I did that, and then we found out that I was going to get called to go into network. So I went to Universal Studios with my daughters that I brought. I had about a five-hour break. So I got ready to go to the network audition. And the note that I got from my agent – and I’m not sure where it came from, casting or what have you – was ‘Make sure you take command of the room.’ I was like, ‘Wow.’ So that translated to me that as soon as I walk through the door, the people in the theater needed to hear my feet, to hear my heels coming, chugging down the theater. Needed to hear it all the way. And I walked in, in the part, ready to say the words. And then the audition ended, and they say ‘Okay, bye! Have a nice flight back to New York!’ And I was like, ‘Oh wow, that was it,’ the whole ‘have a nice flight’ thing… I believe it was the next day or maybe two days later, they told me that I booked it.”

On how “Grey’s Anatomy” would choose which health issues to highlight on the show:
“Being purposeful about wanting to affect healthcare going forward. If you tap back to the Obama administration where the whole purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to stop people early enough, to change the habits early enough, so that later on we’re not dealing so much with the heart disease, with the diabetes, with obesity, because we’ve changed the habits early on, we’ve gotten medical intervention early on in order to help us later on. So that would definitely be a reason to tackle the issue.”

On an early episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” that handled the issue of obesity and the show’s attitude on handling social or medical issues:
“It was very early on. I do remember that. I remember the girl. I remember talking about shame. It was way before social media, if I remember right, so people would have had to send letters to us, and it was way before I was plugged in on that level to what the thinking was from the viewers, from what they were saying. But one thing about ‘Grey’s’ is – until this last season, as far as social issues and moral issues are concerned, and even racial issues – as opposed to telling our audiences what they should think or how they should feel or what they should think is important, we just would show them. We would show them these characters, show them these situations. And usually the patient would say whatever their perspective was about that. And then it was up to the audience then to decide if that made any sense at all or if that had value or if that was right… This was an extremely obese patient, and I remember we were going in surgically to try to remove some layers, if I remember right, and that that was going to be incredibly dangerous and it was something that she may not survive, because of the blood vessels and not being able to tell the difference between what was something that we could cut and otherwise. And that she just kind of put it on one of the doctors that they were judging her that she allowed herself to get into that position. But there was no judgment on it. Our jobs as surgeons, which we would always try to come back to, is to look at it from a medical standpoint and to look at it from a surgical standpoint. The other end of that – that’s the work that the patient has to do, that’s the work that a social worker has to do, that’s the work that a therapist has to do. At this point, it doesn’t do any good to blame. It’s like, ‘This is where we are, so now what do we do?’ And even though that’s the way we kind of attacked things in the past, because of COVID, this was one of the seasons where all bets were off. Call it what it is. Is it racism, is it disenfranchisement, is it lack of equity? Whatever it is, call the thing by name, because it doesn’t make sense not to do it anymore. And I wouldn’t be surprised if in the going forward, without being the preachers, you know, or the police of integrity, that it’s really important to call things by name.”

On growing up in the South in the 1970s and being called racial slurs as a child:
“We’re talking about charm school, and the charm school was attached to the Montgomery Ward department store. So, I went to Montgomery Ward for my charm school lessons on Saturday, and it culminated in a pageant where we modeled clothes for Montgomery Ward. So, this pageant, I thought that there was one other black girl in my charm class, but I was behind the curtain before it was my turn to go up and do my routine, and a little white girl let me know that I wasn’t going to win. And I was like ‘Wow, how do you know already?’ She said ‘Because you’re a *****.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ And I don’t think I knew what that was at the time, and I went and I did my little routine… So I got down after, and I went and I talked to my mom, and I said ‘So and so said I wasn’t going to win because I was a *****,’ and she said ‘No, you’re not going to win because… your routine wasn’t long enough.’ The word, it had no meaning. It wasn’t something, even growing up in the South, that was something to hold me back. You know, it was like a ‘whatever.’ So I was fortunate, in a way, to get that early, to not have to carry a word with me like an albatross.”

On the challenge of breaking down the stigmas around obesity:
“We’re a size 14, 16, 18 society. Like, that’s normal, right? The things that you see on TV, the things in the magazines, that’s something people aspire to, something people work at trying to get, but just, you know, folks on the regular, that’s where we’re living, and that’s because of the access that we have to what we have, which is fast food, you know, eating real quick, it’s not about, like, going home and making dinner as a family and making lunch as a family… You know, it’s just a different way that we look at food, and food has other uses besides just nutrition. Everything involves food. ‘Hey let’s get together, hey let’s meet at this restaurant.’ You know, it’s all around food. We are a society full of people that are used to being full, even if it’s full on stuff that’s not good for you. So, ultimately you do want to attack nutrition, but if you’re not in the right place to hear that, then you’re going to think ‘Oh, you’re looking at how I look, you’re criticizing how I look and then telling me how I’m supposed to eat based on that.’ And then you get nowhere, you get absolutely nowhere.”

On shadowing surgeons for her role in “Grey’s Anatomy”:
“I was always expecting to be watching from a gallery from somewhere. No. I was on the floor. The one that stands out the most to me was a five-month old baby girl with a hole in her heart. So, I was there from the time she was just on the table, you know waiting, and people were getting the room together, and I’m like, ‘Okay, at some point they’re gonna send me out.’ No, I got gowned, right there on the floor. And then they draped her and got her ready. And then they opened the field so that the attending could come in and do what he needed to do… It was completely fascinating to me. It was fascinating watching the perfusion machine hooked up to the baby’s heart, and then it taking over the job of the heart so that the field could stay clean. I was amazed at how clean her insides were, you know? And then this heart is just sitting there in perfect form, you know, beating and ready, but it needs a repair. And I was able to look over and appreciate everyone’s job in the room, because everybody knew what they were in the room for. You’re not in panic all the time. It’s not trauma all the time. Sometimes, it’s ‘We’ve got this sterile environment, and we’re going to do this repair, and we’re going to close this baby girl up so she can have a life.’ And I thought it was beautiful. It was so beautiful.”


More about The Creative Coalition
The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating its members on issues of public importance. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President. The Creative Coalition also creates award-winning public service campaigns including #RightToBearArts to promote the efficacy of the arts. The Creative Coalition harnesses the unique platforms of the arts community and entertainment industry to make positive impacts on social welfare issues. For more information, visit On The Edge is graciously supported by Novo Nordisk Inc.